Media fantasy land
By Joel Mowbray
The Washington Times
In the terrorism case of two young Egyptian nationals and University of South Florida students arrested Aug. 4 in South Carolina, fascinating twists and turns abound.
There's a secret recording of the defendants discussing strategy shortly after their arrest. There's a YouTube video in which one of the defendants gave instructions in Arabic on converting a remote-control toy into a bomb detonator, which he allegedly told police was made to help people in Arab countries "defend themselves against the infidels invading their countries," specifically "against those who fought for the United States."
That's not all. The father of one of the defendants, Youssef Megahed, all but pointed the finger at the co-defendant, Ahmed Mohamed, as the sole culprit, thus implying that his son was ignorant or duped.
Yet this compelling drama has drawn scant attention from the mainstream media. And while apologists might attempt to write off the paucity of coverage for various reasons, a slew of other terrorism cases since September 11 have been met with the same media disinterest.
Following the arrests of Mr. Mohamed and Mr. Megahed on Aug. 4 with explosives in the trunk of their car — just seven miles from a naval weapons base in Goose Creek, S.C. — The Washington Post and New York Times made fleeting references. [emphasis added]. Each paper ran a brief overview from the Associated Press, with no independent reporting.
After the federal government indicted the two defendants on explosives charges and Mr. Mohamed on terrorism-related charges, the Times devoted not even 500 words — on page 14, no less. That was actually more aggressive than The Post, which discussed the indictment, but only in the context of the revelation of the YouTube video, which included asking what might happen to the Internet giant.
Neither highly esteemed outlet reported the full contents in the trunk of the vehicle the pair was driving: a box of .22-caliber bullets, gun powder, several gallons of gasoline, PVC piping, 20 feet of fuse, and a drill.
Neither paper even mentioned perhaps the most amusing part of the case: the conversation between the two defendants in the back of the police car after the arrest. Not knowing an audio recorder was capturing their words, the two had the following exchange:
"Did you tell them there is something in them?" Mr. Mohamed asked, presumably referring to the PVC pipes.
"Water," Mr. Megahed said.
"Water! Right? The black water is in the Pepsi."
Also left unreported by the Post and the Times was that Mr. Mohamed's computer contained a file named "Bomb Shock," which contained detailed information on TNT and C-4, a military-grade plastic explosive.
Most shocking is the apparent animus Mr. Mohamed harbors for the U.S. military. According to a court document, Mr. Mohamed "considered American troops, and those military forces fighting with the American military, to be invaders of Arab countries."
When someone with seething anger toward U.S. soldiers drives a car filled with explosive materials two states away to a naval station, how is that not major news?
Contrast that to the coverage afforded the recent mistrial in the government's case against Holy Land Foundation, an alleged front for Hamas.
The mistrial was spun by most mainstream media outlets as a major defeat to U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The New York Times dedicated over 1,200 words in a page-one story. The Washington Post was a bit more restrained, putting its coverage on page three, but the editorial page ran a stinging criticism by Georgetown Professor David Cole of supposed government overreach.
Defenders of high-profile treatment of the Holy Land mistrial likely would assert the connection to September 11, as the Islamic charity was shut down with great fanfare in October 2001.
But what about the case of Ali al-Timimi, a Muslim cleric who was convicted in 2005 for urging his followers shortly after September 11 to wage jihad against the United States. The Times ran its coverage of the April 2005 conviction on page 12. The life sentence Mr. Timimi received that July was bumped back to page 21.
At least The Post placed the story about Mr. Timimi's conviction on the front page. This might have owed to the local angle, though, as Mr. Timimi taught at an adult Islamic education center in Northern Virginia.
Just three months later, The Post editorialized against Mr. Timimi's life sentence, under the headline, "Sentenced for Speaking." Emphasizing that none of his followers had actually waged successful jihad, The Post wrote, "[he] has been sentenced to life in prison for words that had little effect."
So, success is the barometer for importance? Does this mean continued media avoidance of thwarted terrorism on our soil until the government fails to stop an attack?